Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the corporation

Number of voters:

25 in 1604; 37 in 1605


7 Dec. 1609SIR EDWARD CECIL vice Wingfield, deceased
21 Mar. 16142RICHARD CECIL
1 Mar. 1624JOHN ST. AMAND vice Goring, chose to sit for Lewes

Main Article

Positioned astride the River Welland, Stamford occupied an anomalous geographical position, as it was situated where the counties of Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Rutland met. The borough was incorporated in 1462, with a council consisting of an annually elected ‘alderman’, 12 other ‘comburgesses’, and 12 ‘capital burgesses’. Its record of regular representation in Parliament began five years later.4 In this period its diocesan, lord keeper Williams, described it as ‘much decayed’, as it suffered from the decline of the weaving industry and the silting up of the Welland, which barred it from participating in the corn trade. Between 1620 and 1623 an attempt to make the Welland navigable by building a new cut served merely to plunge the town into financial difficulties.5 Nevertheless, Stamford remained a market town and a staging point on the Great North Road, with some flourishing local industries, notably leather, and its easy access to several of the finest building stones in England must already have given it a dignified air. The chief interest lay with the Cecil family, whose great mansion at Burghley was only two miles away. The Cecils owned extensive property in and around the town and dominated the corporation through their tenure of the recordership. Moreover, in 1597 the 1st Lord Burghley (Sir William Cecil†) founded a hospital by the bridge.6 None of the early Stuart parliamentary elections seem to have been contested: all the returns contain words such as ‘with one voice and assent’, and the entries in the hall book show no signs of dissension.7

In 1604 Sir Robert Wingfield, a native of the town and the senior ‘comburgess’, was re-elected for the sixth consecutive time, no doubt with the approval of his first cousin, the 2nd Lord Burghley (Thomas Cecil†). Corporation interest also accounted for the election of the junior Member, Henry Hall, another gentleman of the neighbourhood. In March 1605 Wingfield, no doubt with the assistance of Burghley’s brother, Viscount Cranborne (Robert Cecil†), secured the remission of almost a quarter of the sum required as fifteenths and tenths from the borough and its Northamptonshire suburbs under the 1601 subsidy, ‘in regard that the town hath been much visited with sickness’.8 Disputes over municipal elections obliged the corporation, through the good offices of Burghley (now 1st earl of Exeter), to obtain a new charter four months later, increasing the number of capital burgesses to 24.9 Exeter placed the town under further obligation in 1609, when he donated a perpetual annuity of £41 1s. 8d. to provide apprenticeships for poor children.10 On Wingfield’s death that same year, Exeter’s son, Sir Edward Cecil, a professional soldier in the service of the States General, took over the senior seat.

Cecil’s absences abroad possibly deterred him from standing again in 1614; at any rate his place as the borough’s senior Member was taken by his brother, Richard. Hall was by now a septuagenarian and is not likely to have considered enlarging his parliamentary experience. Instead the corporation interest went to a Norfolk gentleman, John Jay, who had family connections in the neighbourhood and was brother to a leading member of the Drapers’ Company of London. Jay died before the next election, which saw the earl of Exeter apply to the borough for permission to nominate both Members. On 14 Nov. 1620 the corporation considered the matter, and ‘with a general consent’ decided to grant the earl’s request. Richard Cecil was subsequently re-elected, together with John Wingfield, 11 the brother of Sir Robert, who advanced £60 to the corporation for dredging the Welland.12

In 1624 the 2nd earl of Exeter gave one seat to Sir George Goring, a trustee of his marriage settlement, who had acted as intermediary between himself and the duke of Buckingham.13 The identity of the other Member, Edward Ayscough, is obscure. He may have been the Edward Ayscough who lived just outside Nottingham at Nuthall, or he may have been a minor government servant from central Lincolnshire; if the latter he was presumably nominated by Williams. The hall book records that ‘Mr. Alderman, with the rest of the comburgesses and capital burgesses … made a free election’.14 When Goring subsequently chose to sit for Lewes, his seat was filled by Williams’s secretary, John St. Amand, who also boasted Nottinghamshire descent. The corporation, being hard pressed to repay the loans raised for the Welland project, was rewarded later that year with another remission of taxes, obtained for it by Williams. In return it supported Williams against one of the Stamford incumbents, John Vicars, who was accused of holding conventicles and propounding dangerous doctrines, which caused discord and ‘great contempt’ of authority. He was eventually disciplined by High Commission.15

For the election to the first Caroline Parliament St. Amand was again chosen, but a new interest appeared in the borough with the return of Sir Montagu Bertie, the youthful heir of Lord Willoughby of Eresby. Bertie was re-elected in 1626, but by then Williams had fallen from office, leaving St. Amand without a patron. St. Amand’s replacement was another young heir from the vicinity, Brian Palmes, whose father’s long service as knight of the shire for Rutland had been (no doubt deliberately) interrupted by pricking him as sheriff. In this Parliament John Wingfield served for Grantham, probably on the interest of Sir George Manners*; at the next election the earl of Exeter seems to have returned the compliment, as Manners’ stepson, Sir Edward Baeshe, was returned at Stamford. The other seat in the third Caroline Parliament was also taken by a Cecil candidate, Sir Thomas Hatton, whose cousin, Lady Hatton (the estranged wife of Sir Edward Coke*) was Exeter’s sister.16

Authors: Paula Watson / Andrew Thrush


  • 1. Stamford Town Hall, hall bk. 1, f. 276.
  • 2. Ibid. f. 309.
  • 3. Ibid. f. 345.
  • 4. HP Commons 1558-1603, i. 199; OR.
  • 5. SP14/170/81; The Making of Stamford ed. A. Rogers, 59-64, 70-1.
  • 6. Making of Stamford, 73, 82.
  • 7. Stamford Town Hall, hall bk. 1, ff. 276, 309.
  • 8. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 202; SO3/2, unfol., 5 Mar. 1605. The town had been seeking this remission ever since June 1603: Stamford Town Hall, hall bk. 1, f. 274.
  • 9. J. Drakard, Stamford, 102; Stamford Town Hall, charters 1B/3, pp. 83-90.
  • 10. Drakard, 352.
  • 11. Stamford Town Hall, hall bk. 1, ff. 331-2. The entry in the hall book relating to the election is printed, but incorrectly dated 1619, in The Gen. ii. 154.
  • 12. Stamford Town Hall, hall bk. 1, f. 342.
  • 13. C.M. Borough, ‘Cal. North Pprs. in Bodl.’, 18; Harl. 1580, f. 424.
  • 14. Stamford Town Hall, hall bk. 1, f. 341.
  • 15. CSP Dom. 1623-5, pp. 317, 319, 343, 426; 1628-9, p. 363.
  • 16. Stamford Town Hall, hall bk. 1, ff. 343, 345, 349.